Being a single mother is a challenge, but it can be even more difficult when you’re raising a boy without a father—who might not have any male role model in his life.
That was the case for Natalie Crabtree, from Muncie, Indiana, who was concerned that her 7-year-old son Rylan had spent nearly his whole life without a stable father figure. She had dated other men in those years but nothing ever worked out.
“I would watch him watch other children with their daddies, and it just broke my heart,” Natalie told Love What Matters. “We still couldn’t find the one for us. Those relationships ended in nothing but heartache and trust issues for Rylan and me.”
But suddenly, things turned around when Natalie met up with an old high school friend named Joe—who happened to be a single parent himself, with two kids.
The old friends hit it off, and began dating—and soon, the two families were like one.
“I instantly fell in love with him and his babies,” Natalie said. “From day one, we did not go one day without seeing each other.”
“He has shown us what it is like to have a family. He loves us with so much intensity that it feels unreal at times.”
But most importantly, he was a much-needed role model for Rylan.
“I explained to Joe that Rylan needs a male who will invest time in him, do things one on one with him, and teach him and guide him,” Natalie said. “Joe has done just that.”
The males in the family quickly formed a bond. Joe not only stepped in for school duties when Natalie couldn’t, but the two bond over sports like golf and biking. Soon enough, they were sharing “no moms allowed” boys’ days.
“I picked Ry up from school the other day and he said, ‘Mom, can I go have a daddy/son day with Joey soon? I want to go golfing,'” Natalie recalled.
“To know that he wants quality time with Joe just melts my heart.”
It was the kind of family Natalie always dreamed of—so they decided to make it official: Natalie and Joe got married on February 17.
And if anyone had any doubt that Joe was the perfect father figure for Rylan, it was gone once they saw a heartwarming moment during the ceremony:
Joe read personalized vows to his new stepson.
“The moment when Joe brought Rylan up in front of our guests on that special day, is a moment I will never forget,” the bride wrote.
In his speech, Joe promised to always be there for Rylan:
I promise to always be there for you when you need someone. Whether it be a coach, a dad, a friend. Anything you need, you can always come to me, and I’ll be your shoulder. I love you, bub.
For mom, it was the most unforgettable moment of her big day—and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“Although those words may have been short and sweet, they meant the world to me and I know they meant the world to Rylan,” Natalie told Love What Matters. “He burst into tears hearing Joe’s promises to him, and the whole room did as well.”
“Rylan knew in that moment that he now has a father; one who truly loves him and will not leave like others have.”
Now that they’ve tied the knot, Natalie and Joe will have a happy marriage and a complete family: both of their children will have a mother and a father figure to look up to.
“I couldn’t ask for anyone greater to be by our side through life’s journey,” Natalie wrote. “Joe and my stepchildren are our greatest gifts.”